Redwood Needles Sierra Club:
‘Dogwood’ Timber Harvest Plan Rejected for Gualala River Floodplain
Sonoma County Superior Court sided with the Friends of Gualala River on Oct. 16 in its fight against logging hundreds of acres of the Wild and Scenic Gualala River floodplain. Sierra Club Redwood Chapter contributed financially to the successful lawsuit. The controversial “Dogwood” timber harvest plan has been the subject of public protests and litigation since 2015.
This ruling may put the issue to rest, as Judge René Chouteau concluded that the timber harvest plan failed to meet California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements for evaluating project alternatives with less environmental impact, and for assessing cumulative environmental impacts to the river, forest and floodplain.
This is the second lawsuit on the “Dogwood” plan. In 2017, Friends of Gualala River, Forest Unlimited, and California Native Plant Society successfully sued CAL FIRE, which approved the timber harvest plan, over similar environmental review flaws. CAL FIRE was required to revoke the permit to log “Dogwood,” but the applicant, Gualala Redwoods Timber, resubmitted the logging plan with minimal corrections. On March 30, 2018, CAL FIRE again approved the logging plan, despite major public opposition. FoGR again sued over the same basic flaws in CAL FIRE’s environmental review process.
In this decision, the court agreed with legal precedents and stated it is “absolutely clear” that timber harvest plans must be functionally equivalent to Environmental Impact Reports and meet the same fundamental standards of CEQA with regard to evaluation of alternatives that reduce impacts to the environment, “one of the most important functions of an EIR.” The court also ruled that CAL FIRE failed to assess cumulative environmental impacts to the Gualala River and its watershed in accordance CEQA, and the agency jumped to conclusions of “no impact” without evidence or accounting for other impacts from past or future logging and land and water uses.